Writing to Market- Should You?

See full issue for 2017 07-03

I recently witnessed an internet spat between a couple of indie heavyweights over the pros and cons of writing to market.

What is writing to market? Well, let me be careful how I phrase this; Writing to market is the cynical bandwagon jumping of authors who want to exploit a popular trend to sell more books.

Actually, that came off a little harsh, let me try again. Writing to market is paying attention to the needs of your audience and giving them what they want.

As you can see, neither and both of those statements are true, which is why I love internet arguments.

Pro to-market writers see nothing wrong with fighting in an arena that has a crowd, rather than tap dancing on an empty stage. Anti-to-market writers aren’t concerned about people trying their hand at something that seems to be taking off, but they are justifiably concerned about mercenaries with no real passion for the genre watering down the market, filling the pot with rhinestones until the real gems are too hard to find.

And let me be clear, that is a legitimate concern. Indie writers have gotten a bad rap because some people are more interested in chasing a buck than offering a quality product. Finding and building an audience is hard enough as it is without people assuming you’re just another shyster.

But here’s the thing, eventually you just have to accept that there are authors and there are remora fish. The remora fish, for those that don't know, is a fish that attaches itself to bigger, better fish in a relationship known as commensalism. Commensalism means, essentially, the little fish gets a boost, and the big fish doesn’t even notice it.

A mercenary opportunist is never going to write as good a product as someone who knows and loves the genre, and while they may be a short term pain-in-the-ass, they’ll dry up with the changing winds. The genres wont. They may move in and out of the main stream, sure, but genres are always sustained by a loyal heart of fans. They’re not going anywhere, and they’ll see through the bullshit.

It’s just pop music, man, and It’s exactly as cyclical and cynical as any other medium or art. First you get the innovators, then the establishers, then the imitators. Then something else comes along and the whole dance starts again.

But like any musician, or artist, or director- if you’re good enough, you’ll stick around. You’re a rock in the tide. If you’re a flavour of the month, well… we see what happens to them. They get their moment in the sun, and then we forget about them.

Let’s be honest, we all want spectacular success. The kind of instant, over-night rockstar success that turns vampire erotic fanfic into endless gold. But people who achieve that sort of success tend to be the crest of the wave- in the right place at the right time. The swifter scavengers may get some scraps from the table, but it won’t last. Take a good look at those who remain in the top of their respective charts and you’ll quickly realise that the realistic long game is…well… to be good at what you do.

And if you’re the kind of opportunist who wants to jump on board that bandwagon- well, fair play to you.

In closing, it's smart to pay attention to the markets, and if you think you’ve got what it takes to add to the growing interest in Space Bear Erotica, then by all means have at it. But if you’re just a cynical trend chaser, providing paint-by-numbers knock offs, then do us all a favour and go and get a job in marketing- it pays better and not having a soul is a considered a bonus.


Steve Wetherell

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